Update: Our practice centers are opening up again, visit the retreats page for upcoming retreats.

The Way Out Is In / Kaira Jewel Lingo on White Supremacy and Racial Healing (Episode #27)

Jo Confino, Kaira Jewel Lingo


This item is part of a series, you can subscribe to future episodes on your favourite podcast platform.

Subscribe

Welcome to episode 27 of The Way Out Is In: The Zen Art of Living, a podcast series mirroring Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s deep teachings of Buddhist philosophy: a simple yet profound methodology for dealing with our suffering, and for creating more happiness and joy in our lives.

In this episode, journalist Jo Confino is joined by much-loved international mindfulness teacher and author Kaira Jewel Lingo, to talk about her practice and community work, both as a monastic and subsequently as a lay practitioner and spiritual mentor.

Together, they further discuss the intersection of racial, climate, and social injustice; privilege; denial; white awareness; hate and embedded white supremacy; deep listening; and spiritual practices for a world in crisis.   

Kaira Jewel Lingo is a dharma teacher who has been practicing mindfulness since 1997. She lived as an ordained nun for 15 years, during which she trained closely with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Speaking five languages, she shares Buddhist meditation, secular mindfulness, and compassion practice internationally, providing spiritual mentoring to individuals and communities working at the intersection of racial, climate, and social justice. Her teaching focuses on activists, educators, artists, youth and families, BIPOC communities, and includes the interweaving of art, play, nature, ecology, and embodied mindfulness practice. She teaches in the Plum Village Zen tradition and in the Vipassana tradition. 

In this episode, Kaira Jewel expands on the journey of her name – Jewel – and her route to the Plum Village practice; being the first ordained monastic of African heritage in Plum Village; Thich Nhat Hanh’s guidance and support; embodying Thay’s teachings; learning to take care of suffering; deciding to disrobe; her mission as a lay dharma teacher; practice as a way of life; deep relationships; and her plans to open a Buddhist-Christian practice center with her partner.

She also dives more deeply into spiritual bypassing; healing racialized trauma; the importance of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) retreats and teachers; the story of the first Plum Village retreat for people of color; collective consciousness; adapting the Five Mindfulness Training to different ethnic groups; and her first book: We Were Made for These Times: Ten Lessons for Moving through Change, Loss, and Disruption

The episode ends with a short meditation guided by Kaira Jewel.

[This episode was recorded on February 18, 2022, via Zoom.] 


Co-produced by the Plum Village App:
https://plumvillage.app/

And Global Optimism:
https://globaloptimism.com/ 

With support from the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation:
https://thichnhathanhfoundation.org/


List of resources

Kaira Jewel Lingo
https://www.kairajewel.com/ 

Plum Village
https://plumvillage.org/

Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha
https://www.parallax.org/product/old-path-white-clouds-walking-in-the-footsteps-of-the-buddha/ 

Ram Dass
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Dass 

Brahmavihārā
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahmavihara 

James Baldwin
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Baldwin 

Melina Bondy
https://www.melinabondy.com/ 

Joanna Macy
https://www.joannamacy.net/ 

Resmaa Menakem
https://www.resmaa.com/ 

The Quaking of America: An Embodied Guide to Navigating Our Nation’s Upheaval and Racial Reckoning
https://www.harvard.com/book/the_quaking_of_america/ 

My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies
https://shop.harvard.com/book/9781942094470 

The Civil Rights Movement
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_rights_movement 

We Were Made for These Times: Ten Lessons for Moving through Change, Loss, and Disruption
https://www.parallax.org/product/we-were-made-for-these-times/ 

The Five Mindfulness Trainings
https://plumvillage.org/mindfulness-practice/the-5-mindfulness-trainings/ 

Deep Adaptation
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Adaptation 

Schumacher College
https://campus.dartington.org/schumacher-college/ 

Buddhist-Christian Community of Meditation and Action
https://www.kairajewel.com/teaching/buddhist-christian-community-of-practice-and-action 


Quotes

“What’s so powerful about Thay’s teaching in the community is this huge heart of inclusiveness. Thay and sangha are always reaching wider; the reach is like the brahmavihārās – the loving-kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity. They are immeasurable minds of love.”

“Part of freeing ourself on the spiritual path is to undo and unravel these delusions and lies that our society has created, that history has wound around us, about who has value and who doesn’t – including patriarchy, or sexual orientation, or gender identity, or age; all these different ways that we are privileged or not.” 

“If you find yourself uncomfortable, or embarrassed, or triggered, or not sure what to say or do, really stay in your body and let yourself dwell in that experience of what it’s like to be uncomfortable. I think so many of our problems come from not being willing to be uncomfortable.”

“Black is beautiful.”

“James Baldwin has this quote, something like, ‘The reason why white people are so afraid to not hate, to stop hating, is that if they feel what’s beneath their hatred, it will be so uncomfortable.’ They don’t want to feel it. So the hate is a kind of protection.”

“If we can be with what is happening in the present moment, and we can, if we can not resist it, not push it away, not judge it, but embrace it with mindfulness, with kindness, with friendliness, with curiosity, with a clear mind, with presence which can be cultivated in every moment – then we have at our disposal so much more to meet the difficulties than we would if we were resisting and pushing away and fighting what is.”

“What this time calls for – with so much change, with so much disruption, with so much at risk – is more and more of us holding down the fort, who are really doing the deep spirit work of seeing interbeing. And you need to slow down to do that. You need to have less. There needs to be space for that kind of consciousness to emerge.”

“Anyone of any privilege needs to be in a space where that history is acknowledged and integrated into our practice.” 

“And if you think there’s something wrong in society, you are right. So it’s an inner and an outer affirmation of, ‘Yes, white supremacy exists and it is deadly.’ And here are dharma practices that can help us as individuals in our relationships and our families, but also in our world, in our institutions, systemically, to see that everyone is being deceived by this story.” 

“We’re all learning. White folks have a different journey than many folks of color, but we’re all learning to wake up from this and we can help each other, we can support each other, and that looks different. It doesn’t necessarily mean doing the work together, but sometimes it can. And then maybe having affinity spaces where we have a chance to speak with our own groups.”

“I feel what Thay taught is love, and he loved his disciples, every one of us, everyone who came to us; I felt he was radiating love and that’s healing. And so if you’re in a community where you are recognized for who you are, you’re not asked to be something else. And then the people there are practicing to love; it’s going to be a healing space. Love in the spiritual sense of each of us working to purify our minds and hearts, to see ourselves more clearly, to love ourselves, and then to really see each other clearly.”

“These are times no other human generation has had to face: profound structural dissolution, and, really, the last days of what Joanna Macy calls late capitalism. This isn’t going to stand for very much longer as it is. And so these are times of apocalypse, right? Where the veil gets pierced – that’s the meaning, in Greek: being able to see through an illusion into what’s more true. So these are times of a lot of potential collective awakening. And these are also times of great suffering, separation, and illusion.”

“All we have to do is be in the present. All we have to do is meet what’s happening now. We get so immobilized and drained of our energy by trying to meet what’s coming – but that’s not here yet. All we are required to do is meet what is here. And we can do that; we are all in the present moment.”

00:00:00

Dear listeners, welcome back to this latest episode of the podcast series The Way Out Is In.

00:00:23

I’m Jo Confino, working at the intersection of personal transformation and systems evolution. And normally, as you know, I would have Brother Phap Huu, the Abbot of Upper Hamlet with us, but he is on monastic retreat. So it’s just me today. But actually, in truth, it’s not just me because we have a very special guest: Kaira Jewel Lingo, who was a nun in Plum Village for 15 years, and is now an international mindfulness teacher who provides spiritual mentoring to individuals and communities working at the intersection of racial, climate and social justice.

00:01:04

The way out is in.

00:01:16

Welcome back, listeners. I am Jo Confino, and we are very, very honored to welcome Kaira Jewel Lingo. Kaira Jewel, welcome.

00:01:28

Thank you, Jo. Very good to be with you.

00:01:32

So we’re going to look at all sorts of things today, but let’s start by sort of helping our listeners to understand your journey. How did you come to the Plum Village practice?

00:01:47

Sure. So I always have to tell this story by describing how I was raised because I was raised in a kind of monastic, quasi-monastic Christian community that my parents joined. That was for families, it was a family religious order, and they set up human development projects, village development projects all over the world and every time zone, and modeled their life on a monastic flow of the day. So we started every day with daily office, and, so I remember waking up quite early as a young child to go down and pray, and sing, and chant, and reflect. The children were cared for communally, so we had our rooms with our families, but there was communal child care and a lot of emphasis on being of service and living a life of spiritual meaning. So I was in this community from birth till 14. And after leaving, I remember really feeling a bit lost, and then I had this yearning to find community and a spiritual path all through my young, young adulthood. And so as soon as I was, I was about to graduate from college and Ram Dass came to my university and he said, you know, ‘You learn a lot here, but you don’t learn how to be happy.’ And that really struck a chord because I was thinking, ‘Well, should I go on and do a Ph.D.?’ I had just finished a master’s. I liked school and yet I found something was missing. I didn’t know how to be happy, I didn’t know how to take care of my suffering, I didn’t know how to not create suffering for others. And so I thought, let me look for a spiritual teacher and a community. So that was when I was twenty-two, and I went to India, traveled for three months, went to Egypt and Ethiopia. Anyway, I concluded Plum Village on my year long trip. Well, it ended up… I stopped at Plum Village, I didn’t go any further. I spent the summer retreat in nineteen ninety seven. And as soon as I saw Thay, I knew this is my teacher, this is the person I’ve been looking for. And the community also. Fell in love with the community immediately and saw that they were really practicing Thay’s teachings and began to learn immediately practices to deepen happiness and transform suffering. And called my dad and said ‘You got to come here.’ And he went on a retreat with Thay, started a Sangha, you know. He became a dedicated practitioner too. So I canceled the rest of my trip around Europe and just spent four months in Plum Village. And at the end of that time, I thought, why don’t I do this all the time? And so that was when the idea of ordaining arose.

00:05:07

And, Kaira, when you said ‘when I met Thay, I just knew this was my teacher.’ What was the essence? What was your experience?

00:05:17

Yeah, well, I had read Old Path White Clouds before I got to Plum Village and it touched me so deeply, so the seeds were already there. And then his way of being, his way of talking, everything in me just resonated with a kind of recognition. I mean, as I’ve practiced more on this path, I really do sense that we, you know, our consciousnesses have have been here before, and I really feel like there was a recognition that there may have been some, some time spent before I was born into this body. But it was that level of, like awe, you know, not anything at the thinking, discursive mind level, but more very deep, like, I want to follow this person. He embodies everything that I want to learn and live. And his presence was just so powerful, the compassion so palpable and the joy and the steadiness. And I just… it was just something in me knew this is where I need to be, following Thay.

00:06:45

And tell us, Kaira Jewel, about when you ordained and you were given the name Sister Jewel. What has been the journey of that name? So even though you disrobed, after 15 years, that’s still a core part of your name, so I would love to know a bit about…

00:07:04

Yeah.

00:07:05

About that.

00:07:06

So, so the the practice of giving a Dharma name, Thay would give each of the monastic disciples a name. So we’d write a letter asking, requesting to become a monastic and I think he would really look at what our aspirations were and find a name that both reflected what we already are and also encouraged us to develop more in a particular direction. So it was the two sides of that same quality. Was like, you know, sorry for my dog barking.

00:07:47

Well, we have lots of natural sounds interspersed in the podcast, so this will fit in very well.

00:07:53

OK. So, you know, when I first heard the name Sister Jewel, I first heard it and it was [Vietnamese name] True Adornment with Jewel, and I started to be called Sister Jewel. But at first I thought, ‘Oh, that’s too flashy.’ I wanted it to be very, you know, I just wanted to be this very simple nun. And so I kind of asked other sisters, ‘Why do you think he gave me that name?’ And one sister, Sister Fern, actually, she gave me a really helpful reply. She said, ‘Well, if you think about a diamond, it’s all these impurities that become something very clarified and pure because of all this pressure.’ And so I thought, ‘Oh yeah, the Sangha is a kind of force that kind of purifies your heart and mind.’ And then I thought, ‘Oh, I like that expression.’ And then I actually asked Thay. I said, ‘Why did you name me that?’ And he was a little defensive. He said, ‘It’s a good name.’ And he told me this story of the wish-fulfilling jewel in Chinese lore of these brothers that go out on this journey and they find of wish-fulfilling jewel. And so he was kind of giving me that angle on the name. And also in different tantric Buddhist practices, this concept of a wish-fulfilling jewel. And so I think I’ve tried to practice with it as an affirmation of something in me that I do my best to radiate peace, and presence, and really showing up for my life. And also an aspiration to not have obscurities that cloud me from really perceiving clearly. And so that’s a lifelong, many lifetimes of practice to really have that kind of mind that’s clear.

00:10:20

And when you heard about Thay’s passing, how did you respond in the sense of… Because are those moments, in a sense, we come back to the core essence, don’t we? Of what he represented, what he… his, you know, what he meant to you. And I’m just wondering what you’ve been working with around that?

00:10:47

Yeah, yeah. The moment I learned that he had passed away, I just closed my eyes and I really was in touch with how he was so free already. I just… the image that came was of a bird flying in the sky, and I just thought, now you get to be even more free. Like you were already free, now it’s just a continuation of that freedom. So there was a quite a lightness of heart when I learned he died and a joy at all that he was able to communicate, often without words, in his presence. And you know what I’ve been reflecting on and practicing with since he passed is really how can I embody what he offered us as deeply as possible every day? The simplest things to, you know, the last simple.

00:11:58

And it’s interesting, Kaira Jewel, because in the monastery, and also a lot of lay practitioners, have sort of taken Thay’s passing as this clarion call to step up, that actually, in a sense, everyone’s been sort of not in Thay’s shadow, but, in a sense, ‘he’s the Zen master and I’m just his student, and I’ll do my best, but he’s the boss.’ And now, with him passing into another realm, it’s sort of leaving people to say, actually, well, actually, it’s me that I need to step up. And I’m just I’m just wondering whether there’s been a sense in you, you know, you talk about embodying, but whether there’s anything else that’s come into your being around how you want to take this forward, this work?

00:12:54

Well, I really felt it most strongly when he had the stroke in 2014. That’s when I really felt, and I talked to other people in our community, Dharma teachers, who had a similar experience to me at that time. I was like… Because he wasn’t able to teach verbally anymore at that point, although he definitely continued to teach in other ways, I felt like my presence as a teacher, as someone carrying on Thay’s teachings became more, it’s hard to put words on it, but it just felt more solid in me. It felt more… It felt more like it was taking up more space, like him in me was manifesting more strongly. And other teachers, Dharma teachers, also said that, that they felt like because he couldn’t be teaching anymore, we all were like more empowered in a way. And so that’s what I felt then. And yeah, I think since his physical passing out of his body, I really, I feel like I’m so lucky to have had the time I had with him, sometimes working closely in certain projects, books or, you know, Wake Up schools or, you know, sometimes, you know, really, and going on trips with him, I just I feel like I just want to share, like consolidate in me, get more and more clear, like remember the stories and share them. And like, it’s what I’ve been doing all along, even before he had the stroke, I was always sharing what he had given to me and others that I had the chance to learn from, too. But I think there’s just this sense of it was so precious that time that I really would like to make, you know, to share however I can. Share stories, share insights, reflect on his life and keep learning from him.

00:15:11

Kaira Jewel, is that one vignette of a story you can share with us that that’s sort of like a moment in time with Thay that that’s in a sense embodies your relation with him, what he meant to you, just something, you know, an experience you had with him that sort of tells us something.

00:15:33

Sure. Yeah. Well, I was the first Black monastic, the first person to be ordained with African heritage. And when I came, when I was a novice, you know, it was not common to see black people coming to Plum Village. And when they would come, there would just be this upsurge of joy in me and kind of wanting to run and hug them because there was just this feeling of, ‘Oh, thank you for being here, and I want you to know that I’m black’ because being mixed, I often, I think, blended in with the Vietnamese monastics and with shaved head, you know, it just was kind of a little ambiguous, my heritage. And so I remember feeling kind of torn about that because I thought, ‘Well, as a nun, I should be equanimous and love everyone equally.’ And so I wrote to Thay about this, saying, you know, ‘What should I do?’ And he came to Lower Hamlet, where I was a novice, and all of the sisters were gathered in his room with him, and we were discussing what color to paint the meditation hall. And out of the blue, he looked at me and he said, ‘Black is beautiful.’ and laughed. And everyone laughed and was, of course, we’re not going to paint the meditation hall black. But it was this kind of secret response to my letter to him because we were always, we could always write letters, and he would respond in his talks or in Zen master ways. But I really understood then when he said that that I could be free to love people that I loved and it can be simple and it… I could affirm that longing in me to really honor that part of myself. So it was just such a beautiful and affirming ‘Yes’ to who I was and what I was struggling with at that point.

00:18:09

And, as you say, for a Zen master, they don’t have to give you an hour’s lecture can be just…

00:18:15

Yeah.

00:18:16

just a look and a phrase, and it’s all understood. Now, Kaira Jewel, after 15 years, you disrobed. And people listening might be, well, god, you know, fully in the practice, you are part of this community, you were with the Zen Master of your life, and then you decided to sort of move into another sort of phase of your life. What was going on for you…

00:18:41

Yeah.

00:18:42

at that time that that questioned whether this path was for the rest of your life?

00:18:47

Yeah. Well, there was a deep yearning to really express the mothering quality. And I, and I thought that meant a biological child, as I was late thirties, you know, biological clock ticking. And I really, you know, when I had… I ordained when I was twenty five and I felt very clear I didn’t mean to have children, I plan to spend my whole life as a nun. So this other call really woke up in me as I was completing my thirties. And I worked very hard to not respond to it and thought maybe this is just going to pass, so for two years in the monastery, I just sat with that and. And then it didn’t pass, and I thought, well, I don’t know what else to do with this than to try to understand it, give it space. So for another two years outside of the monastery, but still in robes, I continued to sit with it. So I did three months silent retreats at Vipassana centers just really holding this question: Do I need to be a biological mom? Because this surge feels so strong. And then I decided to disrobe. It did feel like there was a… As I was out in the world still as a nun, I was seeing there was a path for me as a lay Dharma teacher, because I didn’t want to stop having practice be the center of my life. And then what I realized some four years after I disrobed was that push to become a mother was some Karma that I needed to work through, and I needed to do all the things, you know, be in a relationship and explore that possibility. And what ended up happening was I really came to the place of seeing that was a Karma that needed to be released, but it had to come up so that it could be released. And so there was a great lightness of letting that go and realizing that’s not actually what I need to do in this lifetime, but I needed to go on that journey of realizing that. It was almost like something from another time came and needed to work itself out on that journey of discovery. And so, so now I feel very clear and rooted in being a lay practitioner, a teacher, in a loving relationship that I hope will be for the rest of my life, but neither of us want children. So, you know, we have our puppy. Anyway. So I think there’s a real gratitude for all that I received as a nun. It was, you know, I don’t regret any moment of time being a nun. It was so, so precious. And also, I feel everything I’ve done since I have felt, and every moment, that I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing. I never felt regret for leaving. I never felt I should be doing something else. It really was like life led me from one thing to the next, to the next, and I just needed to follow and allow things to unfold. And I feel like now being in the world I can offer, you know, Thay’s teachings, Plum Village practices to places where they wouldn’t otherwise have gone if I were in robes. And I love being with the community, coming to the practice centers, practicing with the monks and nuns, with the Sangha, you know, whenever I can. And I still feel very connected and part of the family. And so I’m just grateful that that thread didn’t need to break for me to have this very profound realization.

00:23:06

And let’s move on to, in a sense, this phase of your life. But before we let go of the old one in terms of the podcast, not in terms of your life, Thay was, you know, as the as the teacher and the Zen master, you know, obviously always felt very sad when someone left, disrobed and left. And I just wondered how Thay was about you going. And he was very protective of his flock, and also he recognized that people had their own path. I was just interested in how you responded.

00:23:46

You know, he didn’t judge or I could just tell he he wanted me to stay, but he wasn’t, he wasn’t pulling me to stay. It was very beautiful, actually. I knew he loved me. I knew the Sangha loved me. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, really. Actually, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to leave the monastic life. And and to do something that so many people that I loved and respected didn’t want me to do, it was sort of the first time in my life I’d ever gone against, you know, not against, but not done what was expected of me by so many. And nobody in the community judgeed me or shamed me or blamed me. There was just sadness. And, you know, wishing for it to somehow be possible for me to stay. But there was, there was really beautiful, I think, on both sides, just this love was so mutual that there was a real wish to part with love. And so I didn’t know I wanted to disrobe when I first left the community, I just knew I needed space to make the decision. So I asked for a year sabbatical and the Sangha allowed me that. And then, as time went on, I wrote back and I said, ‘You know, I need more time’ And eventually I realized I was going to disrobe. But Thay was, I think, sad and still I felt his love very strongly. There was no pushing away.

00:25:29

Beautiful.

00:25:30

Yeah.

00:25:32

So let’s focus on your practice since then. One of the things I really wanted to explore with you is your work with black, indigenous and people of color. It’s a real commitment you made and, as you said, you were one of the only black women to be ordained. And I’m just wondering about what it is about your commitment to serve those communities that is so important to you.

00:26:01

Yeah, I think, you know, what’s so powerful about Thay’s teaching in the community is this huge heart of inclusiveness. You know, Thay and Sangha are always reaching wider, the reach is like, you know, like the brahma viharas the loving-kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity. They are immeasurable minds of love. So there is this deep, beautiful Bodhisattva aspiration in the practice to be immeasurable in terms of the people, the experiences that we can hold and share the practice with. And I think feeling so loved and included in the community and then seeing how few BIPOC were at our retreats in the US, which is, you know… Well in a few years it will be a majority BIPOC country, but when we were, when I was starting to go on retreats with Thay in the US, the retreats were getting much bigger, like thousands of people, and there would be hardly any BIPOC. It was a pretty homogeneous population and that just filled me with a lot of sadness to not see people represented there that were part of society and that very much yearned for and needed these teachings. And so we approached Thay, we said, ‘Could we offer, would you offer, would you teach people of color retreat?’ And so in 2004, and that was the first one, and we thought maybe we’d get 70 people. I remember putting ads in different magazines, brothers and sisters, we put posters up through Harlem and, you know, 400 people came and it was this huge, and you could see the need was so great. And in so many practice centers in the West, they were majority white. So if you were BIPOC, you would come there and there would be unconscious, you know, oppression, unconscious privilege, and white supremacy expressed. Whereas people would wonder, why were you there? Were you there to clean? These things still happen today. Today. You know, where white people unknowingly harm people of color because they are not used to being around them in daily life. So when we’re together in a spiritual setting, there’s discomfort. And so, of course, that harms BIPOC practitioners who are coming also to have a sense of a spiritual home and to be loved and accepted and be part of something that can transform them in the depths of their being. So not only was it about opening access to retreats and creating spaces where BIPOC folks could feel understood and met, because there is a huge level of denial in many countries that are predominantly white, that denies the history of racism, of slavery, of the indigenous genocide. Even now there’s, in the US, there’s a huge effort to ban books and to erase history that makes white people uncomfortable. So, so when you live in that kind of society, it’s really important to have spaces where that history isn’t hidden, because that’s part of the healing. And that’s, everyone needs that, not just BIPOC, white people need that to. Anyone of any privilege needs to be in a space where that history is acknowledged and integrated into our practice. And so that’s what we began to view out of these people of color retreats we created a special touching of the Earth practice to each ethnic group in the United States, add a whole paragraph with names honoring the land ancestors that were of indigenous background of African, of Asian, of Black…, Latino, Latina. So that was very healing for people to have their ancestors recognized, to be welcomed in their full selves and to hear in a spiritual setting racism being addressed, because it was in other many centers it was something that was sort of, ‘Oh, that’s, you know, we don’t talk about that’ or that’s… ‘You’re you’re getting caught in a sense of self if you think that you’re race or you’re these other identities.’ Like spiritual bypassing, right? And so, so creating spaces where we could begin to address this very pernicious and in stabilizing feature that was, it is part of the DNA of our society, of our world. And so Thay began to address that. And then also it began to become a wider realm of awareness in the community, where there were now white awareness groups forming in our sangha to understand how whiteness works and how to be more free of it. Because the more all of us can be free of it, the more we can manifest our true Buddha nature. It’s part of freeing ourself on the spiritual path, for anyone, is to undo and unravel these basically delusions and lies that our society has created, that history has wound around us about who has value, who doesn’t, including patriarchy, or our sexual orientation, or gender identity. You know, all… age, all these different ways that we are privileged or not. And so I think what’s been so transformative for BIPOC folks in coming into touch with the practice is, you know, it’s so common that the message from our society to people of color is, there’s something wrong with you. And if you think that’s a problem, that’s your problem. Right? That’s the message. And so these spaces for BIPOC folks, first of all, because there are spiritual spaces about healing, about knowing our minds, the messages, there’s nothing wrong with you. And if you think there’s something wrong in society, you are right. So it’s an inner and an outer affirmation of, yes, white supremacy exists and it is deadly. And here are Dharma practices that can help us as individuals in our relationships and our families, but also in our world, in our institutions systemically to see that everyone is being deceived by this story. And we can all wake up to a deeper truth about ourselves that can be extremely healing because these things aren’t disconnected, white supremacy is completely connected with the climate crisis. You know, some teachers say it’s the mother of the climate crisis. So as we get to this like, how does this distinction come about of valuing parts of ourselves or groups of us over others, that’s deeply embedded in all the ways we treat other species, our planet, our atmosphere.

00:33:54

So, Kaira Jewel, I just want to sort of go back to different aspects of what you said, just because I think for our listeners, it’s really helpful to have a deeper understanding. So the first element of that, as you said which I’ve experienced too is that you go to different practice centers of Plum Village or other traditions, and even though the people who attend these may be full of mindfulness and practice, that there’s this big blind spot.

00:34:28

Yeah.

00:34:30

And it’s not an intention because those people are often mortified if they’re shown to that they are being racist.

00:34:42

Yeah.

00:34:43

So, so two aspects of that. One is how have you dealt with your own feelings when you come across these situations? So it’s very easy to feel anger, frustration and sadness, et cetera, et cetera. When you come across these and you face them, what is it that it brings up in you and how do you handle those feelings for yourself?

00:35:09

So it’s not very different for me than than any other thing someone would project on to me. And if, you know, someone thought I took something and I didn’t take it or, you know, had a misperception about me, I think, you know, seeing and it’s not even just when things happen to me, but if I witness something that’s a manifestation of racism, white supremacy, there is, you know, pain, anger that comes up, often a sense of alienation, of like, you know, this deep message that that I’ve received my whole life, that I don’t belong because of how I look. I remember, as a child, I thought I had to have a thinner nose and I would hold my nose, the bridge of my nose thinking I could make it smaller, look more like a white person’s nose. So that was so deeply embedded in me, the sense that there was something wrong with me, pre-verbal, you know. So when things like this happen in life, now, there’s this sense of it’s touching that old experience of there’s no, you know, people don’t see me as belonging in this picture, or other people who are like me aren’t invited in, aren’t welcome, or there’s fear, you know, and I’m doing training in black bodied groups to also notice the ways I freeze, the ways I shut down, the ways I tell myself there’s something wrong with me. Especially at the body level, the somatic level where… So broadening out, so it’s not just my mind, but really my body of noticing where I’m fending off, where I get afraid, you know. So I’m learning, I’m getting more vocabulary because I’m part of groups that are studying this in a very like, very intricate scientific, you know. So if I am hearing, for example, two white men speak at the dog park and they’re getting upset about something race related and I notice my heart rate go up. And this visceral fear, because they’re talking about, you know, black people, and I don’t even know what they were talking about, but they were angry. One of them was angry and it was about something a black person had done. And I was like, I could feel the level of fear. Like, you know, not an experience I often have. They weren’t talking to me. I was overhearing them, but I really felt this fear. I was aware of it. I was like, ‘This is my collective consciousness being, you know, activated by, you know’… I mean, the people I come from had to be very careful if white people were angry historically, right? That could mean death. So acknowledging that, recognizing there’s nothing wrong with me for feeling afraid, taking care of that, soothing that, and talking about it, processing it with people that I trust, and giving space and just noticing it took like a few hours to come back to a place of calm. It was like a low-level activation, but I was aware of it. And so I noticed the whole length of that experience and how triggering that was. And so, you know, honoring those experiences, feeling them in my body, bringing in care to my body, not pushing them away, not telling myself, ‘Oh, you’re overreacting’. No, I have every right to feel this way and I can care for that. You know, and I can still go back and talk to those people who I overheard speaking with a calm and an open heart. Because yes, we may have different views on society, but once I’m caring for what I’m feeling, I’m not reactive to, you know, who they are. And I can, you know, interact in a way that isn’t from that place of fear and doesn’t bother them.

00:40:00

It’s interesting, Kaira Jewel, because, firstly, thank you for talking so deeply and profoundly. And, you know, I’m just aware that as I’m listening to you, I’m listening very, very closely and deeply to you in a way that I wouldn’t normally do. And you know, so, you know, I’m a white man, 60. I’m Jewish. My family on both sides were persecuted…. And yet I’m being very privileged in this life. And so just listening to you and really allow myself to be 100 percent there for you seems to be very important because you’re speaking a truth that needs to be heard, but not just heard, but deeply respected. And I’m just wondering, you know, for many listeners who are white and maybe and I would imagine if they’re listening to this podcast, they cared deeply and profoundly about humanity and about discrimination but still have a lot of unconscious attitudes or responses. What would you like white people to do? Because you can say, ‘Well, just be aware, just listen, just read up about it, educate ourselves’ and maybe all those are important. But I’m thinking of the quality of what you want people to… How you want this to be heard or responded to.

00:41:41

I guess I would say, you know, be in your body, you know, whatever this brings up into you, whatever this brings up and you feel it in your body, if you have a visceral reaction, if you have an urge to do something, if you have, you know, if you want to make noise or like to just listen and allow your body to respond. And with everything about race to do that, you know, so if you find yourself uncomfortable, or embarrassed, or triggered, or not sure what to say or do to really stay in your body and let yourself dwell in that experience of what it’s like to be uncomfortable. I think so much of our problems come from not being willing to be uncomfortable. James Baldwin has this quote something like the reason why white people are so afraid to not hate, to stop hating is that if they feel what’s beneath their hatred, it will be so uncomfortable. They don’t want to feel it. So the hate is a kind of protection. So if we can get through that, it’s different, for different folks it’s different things. Maybe not hatred, maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s shame, maybe it’s, you know, judgment or apathy. So what’s beneath that? If we can hang out with what’s beneath that, that is the answer to everything, it’s not avoiding what’s painful.

00:43:27

So that’s really interesting, Kaira Jewel, because, you know, as I’m sitting here talking to you, I’m feeling a tightness around my belly. I’m feeling my head is quite heavy. I’m feeling almost of being… It’s not quite right, but it’s the word that’s coming to me… I’m feeling a little bit lost, a sense of discomfort which, you know, I’ve now recorded with Phap Huu, you know, 21 episodes, and this feeling hasn’t come up before. So I think this is part of what you’re saying… If we go back and listen to our bodies, my body is telling me something: tightness, feeling a bit lost, and feeling uncertain and not knowing how to handle that experience.

00:44:17

Yeah.

00:44:19

And I know that when I, you know, I was living in New York for five years, I was quite astonished, even though there’s a lot of racism in the UK, but it was hidden from view for me in a sense of the life I lived.

00:44:34

Yeah.

00:44:34

But coming to the States, it was just overwhelming.

00:44:37

Yeah.

00:44:38

Just the deep sense of pain that’s right at the surface. None of this is is hidden, I mean, while people might be trying to hide it again, I mean, it’s so… such a strong sort of, you know, it’s… You can’t avoid it. So I’m just sort of… And so I think it’s really interesting that sense of how do white people respond to what white awarenesses is. I mean, what advice would you give apart from feeling sort of, you know, the feeling in our body, you know, when you talk about within a Plum Village practice, that white awareness workshops and stuff? Can you give us a sense of what it is that what sort of awareness are we looking for in people?

00:45:27

Yeah. Well, I think it’s exactly what you just described. It was so beautiful, Jo, of just actually naming the discomfort, because part of white supremacy culture is to perform, to have to, you know, to be in a mask, right? To not be vulnerable, to not share what’s really going on because then we lose power, we lose control. That’s the idea anyway. That is a part of this whole culture that has, you know, created racism. And so what you just did, I feel, is so powerful, of being with it, naming it, giving it space, not hiding from it. And I’m curious, after you talked about it, how do you feel in your belly now, in your head now? When you spoke about it or when we held it together in a way, like, what do you notice now?

00:46:31

Well, I feel lighter. I think the truth for me is that I’m not sure how to be with this.

00:46:44

Yeah.

00:46:44

It’s so deep and yet I feel also it’s been very politicized in the sense of I think there’s a lot of fear about saying the wrong thing. I mean, before we started this conversation, I said, ‘Kaira Jewel, if I say something inappropriate, please let me know we can stop and just re-record that bit.’ Because yeah, there’s this fear of… It’s such a tender and sensitive topic, and I’m just so political for good reason that I think people also fear that even if they have good intent, that they’ll get it wrong.

00:47:20

Yeah, yeah.

00:47:22

That they’ll say the wrong thing, they’ll say the wrong phrase, rather than people of color, they’ll use a phrase that was, you know, is no longer appropriate and, or, whatever. And so I think it’s hard to reach the tender part, because you have to go through a lot of layers to get there.

00:47:40

And I think really acknowledging that, you know, there’s courses that I’ve taught with a white, she was a nun and then she had disrobed, Melina Bondy we’ve taught courses together. But the culture in many spaces, like that course that we both taught about healing racialized trauma, is about being kind to ourselves. We’re all learning, you know. White folks have a different journey than many folks of color, but we’re all learning to wake up from this and we can help each other, we can support each other, and that looks different, you know? It doesn’t necessarily mean doing the work together, but, you know, but sometimes it can. And then maybe having affinity spaces where we have a chance to speak with our own, you know, groups. But this sense of, you know, nobody chose to have these views enter them by osmosis. It happened, right? And so understanding that this is something that, you know, generations have passed on to generations after and it’s a lifelong process of waking up to that, of healing that. And, you know, I just want to name a wonderful author and teacher, Resmaa Menakem, who’s written My Grandmother’s Hands: Pathway to Mending our… Healing trauma, it’s healing from racialized trauma, a Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies. And also, his new book is coming out this spring The Quaking of America, it’s about being with this, what you were just describing, this discomfort that’s beneath the surface, allowing the quaking to happen and really feeling it. So I study with him, many people do, and there are many other groups that are doing wonderful work like this. I think just any space that is taking this as a topic, because just just talking about race is already uncomfortable, right? And so being in spaces that invite the discomfort, that look at the history, I think a lot of it is also we don’t know our history, and that’s by design. You know, like learning, for example, in the UK, people are still getting money from their ancestors being forced to sell their slaves, their enslaved people. There’s still people in the UK today receiving money from the government because their forefathers were forced to sell the people they had owned. So I mean, this isn’t…

00:50:37

I didnt’ know that.

00:50:38

Yeah, yeah. I read about it. I was like, ‘Wow.’ So this is like the history we don’t know. There’s so much we don’t know. And so being committed to learning about it, being in a groups where we somatically feel into the body, because this enters us before we know words. This is so deep in us, before we know words, that we have to unravel it at the level of the body, right? It’s all the, you know, 40 years, 50 years of trainings since the Civil Rights Movement to undo this at the level of thought have not gotten us very far. Right? We need to go into the body and learn how this operates at the body and how to undo it. And a lot of that, the wisdom of healing trauma can really support us in this, as well as the systems thinking that you are part of too.

00:51:38

And Kaira Jewel, you know, the mistake would be to focus on what white people need to do, because also there’s how I think, you know, as important, maybe not even more important is the work you’re doing with communities of color. What is it that the practice brings that may be specific to those communities, and what are those communities and I know it’s a big generalization, but if there are specifics what can support those communities and in healing these deep wounds? Because the persecuted and the persecutors, as you say, they need to do their own work. But in terms of those who have suffered generations with that trauma has been passed down and is so embedded also in their thinking. What is the work you do that helps to unlock that, that resonates with people?

00:52:35

Yeah, I think just having BIPOC spaces already is one piece. I mean, that’s not the only part of it. I think, you know, there are centers where I teach where sometimes it’s a general retreat, so it’s likely be majority white, but the majority of teachers are teachers of color, which is happening more now as more Buddhist lineages see, we really need to train more teachers of color if we want. More folks of color to have access, they have to have also teachers that know their experience. But you have spaces that change radically, even if they’re, you know, well… What I’ve noticed is when you have retreats, where there are more teachers of color, more BIPOC tend to come and you naturally get a more mixed group. And both white folks and BIPOC feel many times more comfortable when the group actually looks more like it does in the real world. So I’ve seen white folks say I come to a retreat that’s mostly white and I don’t feel comfortable because that’s what, you know, the world they live in is one where they want to have folks that they see in their daily life, in their spiritual communities. So, you know, what happens for BIPOC, I think, especially is just having a space where they can, where a priority it’s understood, that their experience is seen. So that can happen in a BIPOC only space, but it can also happen in these other spaces I’ve described, where they see people like them in leadership or they see more people that look like them as part of the general population on a retreat or at an event or whatever. So I think just taking care to have numbers already helps a lot to have people feel like, OK, I’m not, I don’t have the added baggage of being one of the only people of color in this gathering, which is often the experience throughout daily life. And it just, it makes it so much harder sometimes to just relax, to just, you know, feel safe. So that piece, and then I think it’s as simple as love. I mean, I just, I feel what Thay taught is love, and he loved his disciples, every one of us, everyone who came to us, I felt he was radiating love and that’s healing. And so if you’re in a community where you are recognized for who you are, you’re not asked to be something else. And then the people there are practicing to love, it’s going to be a healing space. And love in the spiritual sense of, you know, each of us working to purify our minds and hearts, to see ourselves more clearly, to love ourselves, and then to really see each other clearly. Like the way you described listening to me so deeply, I felt so moved and so grateful. And that quality of listening is what we bring in these spaces where we really want to hear each other’s stories, we value each other, we honor where we’ve come from. And, you know, both our suffering, has a space, so there’s, you know, time and place and it’s appropriate to talk about our suffering. So that’s one of the things that’s a gift in the Dharma, and our joy, our strength, our compassion, our insight, our wisdom, all things we received from our ancestors, their incredible resilience, that has space to be honored, to be seen, to be lifted up, and celebrated because it’s not only suffering. Right? When we come together, we’re not only talking about what we’ve lost or suffered, we’re also coming together to share, you know, all of our triumphs and the beauty of being in a BIPOC body, which… There’s much beauty in that experience. So I think that’s where the health comes in. It’s not having to shut down any part of ourselves and also being affirmed in, you know, all of the strength.

00:57:23

What I hear from you is, you know, the teaching is about no discrimination, no superiority complex, no inferiority complex, no equality complex. We’re not better, not worse, we’re not exactly the same, but we respect and deeply honor each other. And so it feels almost people just want to be seen for who they are. They don’t… It’s not like people need anything special. It’s just people want to just be held and loved for who they know themselves to be.

00:58:10

Yeah.

00:58:11

Deep down.

00:58:12

Yes.

00:58:13

Yeah. And there’s no discrimination there because a white person, a person of color, a woman, a man, you know, an indigenous person, someone from an industrialized country, you know, when it comes down to the core is just our humanity. Isn’t it? We just want to be seen, recognized, accepted, and appreciated. And actually no one doesn’t want that. And actually, no one really wants more than that.

00:58:44

Yes. Yes. Yeah. So I was just going to say we just, so I lead a weekly BIPOC meditation group with Marisela Gomez, also a Y member, Plum Village practitioner, Dharma teacher, aspirant, and we just transmitted the Five Mindfulness Trainings to this group along with the five contemplations on the mindfulness trainings, which she and Valerie Brown wrote as awarenesses around race, and privilege, and oppression, and that are like reflections and paired to each of the mindfulness trainings. So I’d really encourage all of us to read them. They’re accessible through the Plum Village website and we can probably link to it, but we transmitted both of those in a ceremony, and it was so joyful, it was so profound, the level of… People wrote to us after ‘I couldn’t believe how close I felt to everyone, even on Zoom, how much I felt embraced and loved by the community in this transmission.’ And I think maybe twenty eight, almost half of the group took the trainings, they received their dharma names. They were so happy to receive a dharma name, to be part of this dream. So just, you know, what we practice in BIPOC spaces is not very different in many… the content isn’t different from other spaces, but this opportunity, like you say, to be seen, to be honored, to have their aspirations encouraged and nurtured. Right? This bodhisattva path of practicing the five mindfulness trainings, practicing these contemplations on the mindfulness trainings. Huge, that’s huge. You have a path, you know where you want to go with your life, you know.

01:00:43

And Kaira Jewel, I just want to go back to one thing you raised which, in a sense, it was very profound, but very quick. And so I just want to give it a little bit more space, which is the intersection of racial justice with climate justice. And, you know, of course, this is where Thay’s teachings on Interbeing come in very profoundly, that traditionally environmental causes were environmental, social justice causes, and social justice cause, and race causes where race cause, and they all had their own support groups or protest groups. They all sought their own funding. They all saw their work in isolation.

01:01:29

Yeah.

01:01:31

And what you just said is that at the root of destruction of the climate can also be seen as inter is with this deep racial injustice.

01:01:46

Yeah.

01:01:46

Can you just give us a little bit more explanation for those who this might be a new idea for or haven’t explored. What is the connection?

01:01:57

Yeah. So attaching value to a phenotype. But really the reason for race, the reason for creating whiteness, it came out of slavery, it came out of the need to control. And capitalism, it was completely interlinked that the only way we’re going to control this group of people for whom there were many among indigenous enslaved Africans and poor whites who came to the new world, there was so much in common, so there were often rebellions against the white elite. And so the strategy was, look, let’s make whiteness so beneficial to poor whites that they won’t align themselves with… And then that’s when the enslaved status became equated with a color. Right? With a skin color. So this, you know, imperialism, colonialism, capitalism could only function on the basis of race. And these were the machines of climate change. Right? They were born from this need to use a group of people to create capital. You know, this country, the United States that I’m in, is only a world power today because of the enslavement of millions of Africans and the genociding of millions of native peoples. And so you wouldn’t have climate crisis if you hadn’t had that psychotic break of seeing, you know, human beings, as you know, the ability to dehumanize based on this creation of a notion of whiteness. And then everything else got defined against whiteness with black being at the bottom, you know. And all of that was done to extract and control and use the natural world for wealth, for the wealthy few white men, not white women, not poor whites. Right? And that was an expression of our disconnect from our world. And so this way of cutting ourselves off from others and defining everything around our skin color went hand in hand with all that has led us to destroy our planet. And to think that we were separate from our planet to begin with, because if we could see ourselves as separate from other humans, other species, you know, our planet, and also just to note, when you mentioned these different groups that worked independently for so long, the environmental movement was largely white and moneyed and focused on the environment as something outside of us that had to be saved. Whereas Indigenous and, you know, BIPOC cultural approaches to climate work, which were happening for a long, long time but not recognized, took a different approach of acknowledging that we are the planet. We are environment. Thay’s insights very much aligned with that as well.

01:05:53

Hmm. Thank you, Kaira Jewel, beautifully, beautifully put. Thank you. And your book We Were Made for These Times: 10 Lessons for Moving Through Change, Loss and Disruption, which was published by Thich Nhat Hanh’s Publishing House, Parallax Press. Congratulations!

01:06:11

Thank you!

01:06:12

We were made for these times. What are these times in your own mind?

01:06:20

These are times no other human generation has had to face: profound structural dissolution, and really, the last days of what Joanna Macy calls ‘late capitalism’. This isn’t going to stand for very much longer as it is. And so these are times of apocalypse, right? Where the veil gets pierced, that’s the meaning, in Greek, of being able to see through an illusion into the what’s more true. So these are times of a lot of potential collective awakening. And there are also times of great suffering, and separation, and illusion. You know, the pandemic, I think, is just a beginning, and it’s already been so devastating that, you know, countries that had come out of extreme poverty are now going to see that those gains setback for decades because of the pandemic. But we are also being told by scientists that we have less than 10 years, maybe eight years now to come about phase before the already devastating consequences that we’re already seeing become debilitating, where our society just simply won’t be able to function. And it’s that we already see it happening. So shortages of labor and, you know, the shipping issues and, you know, things that we could rely on that are not able to rely on. The fact that we don’t share a common truth. The news used to be something everyone had faith in, whatever their backgrounds. Now we’re having these silos of information and you don’t agree on the same reality. How do you have a country when you don’t agree on the same reality? The last time that happened in the US, we had a civil war. So we’re in very dangerous, and difficult, and extremely potent times where we really need to keep our heads above water and we can.

01:08:51

So when you say we can, because you have 10 lessons for moving through, and of course we don’t have time to go through the 10, but if you were to, and hopefully people listening will want to get the book, and then they can go into detail. But what’s the essence of what you’re telling people? Because Thay’s teaching about being in the present moment, about impermanence, about coming back to your breath, about compassion, about letting go of this disconnection so that, you know, there are many teachings. But in terms of actually, you know, what people need now as a general rule to help them through these times, what is your essential teaching here?

01:09:44

It’s what we’ve been talking about, that if we can be with what is happening in the present moment, and we can, if we cannot resist it, not push it away, not judge it, but embrace it with mindfulness, with kindness, with friendliness, with curiosity, with a clear mind, with presence which can be cultivated in every moment, then we have at our disposal so much more to meet the difficulties than we would if we were resisting and pushing away and fighting what is. So that if we can be with what’s here, rely on each other, see each other, be with each other, build community and honor what’s happening, this is a natural consequence of what has come before, then we can be in the next moment, and the next one, and the next, whatever it is. So we don’t have to be stuck. We don’t have to be… We don’t have to, we don’t have to suffer. Actually, as difficult as things may become or already are, for many, there are practices and ways of approaching our life and our collective dissolution. And if we surrender to it, if we flow with it, that’s actually a creative process, so I often think of the caterpillar that builds his cocoon and starts to dissolve into this soup. So we’re in that process now we’re in this dissolving. But if we can trust it and open to its possibilities, even in the darkness, even in the pain of loss, we can, we are we’re more able to access the potentialities of what it can become than if we say no, we shouldn’t, we shouldn’t dissolve. But a caterpillar has to dissolve if it’s going to become a butterfly. I don’t know what we’re going to become. I don’t know if we’re going to turn into a butterfly species that transcends this time, but I know that there is a reason for this that if we can move with it and adapt, this deep aadaptation, Jem Bendell, we can we have much more power to create something else than if we are fighting what’s happening. And I think that’s the spiritual practice gift is all these practices of being with our breath, being with our body, being with each other, tracking what’s happening. And all we have to do is be in the present. All we have to do is meet what’s happening now. We get so immobilized and drained of our energy by trying to meet what’s coming. But that’s not here yet. All we are required to do is meet what is here. And we can do that. We are all in the present moment. We can do that. And we may need support. We can get… We can rely on each other. We can go to the Earth. The Earth can help us to. We have resources. And that will help us meet the next moment, and the next moment, and the next, so we can move with the dissolving rather than against it.

01:13:39

Well, I wish I could talk as eloquently and profoundly as you. Can you train me up, please? I want to come and be trained up by you. Kaira Jewel, just finally, one of the things that actually Thay is very respected for is that he didn’t say Buddhism strictly, he was very sort of real deep connection between Buddhism and other religions, especially Christianity, and recognize the power of the dialog between those religions. And I know that one of your great aspirations is to deepen that dialog and actually bring it into into a living, a living, breathing community. It’d be lovely just to hear what that aspiration is. And given that your husband is very deep in the Christian tradition, you are very deep in the Buddhist tradition. You know, you’re obviously, you’re trying to bring forth into the world what you already have created as a relationship. So it’d be lovely to know about your relationship, given that, you know, that the monastics are celibate and one of the reasons you left is to no longer be celibate. So what’s it like having a deep, profound relationship? And then how would you want to bring this work forward?

01:15:09

Yeah, yeah. Well, I feel again so lucky to have met someone who has such a deep calling for spiritual awakening. So he kind of also had a semi-monastic path. He wasn’t ordained, but he really dedicated his life to serving homeless youth in New York City for 15 years, started a foundation and really didn’t have a lot of his energy going towards relationships because that was really his calling, to work with homeless youth. And then he felt really called to do Episcopal priest work, and so that’s when he really felt, ‘Oh, I would really be good to be in a relationship.’ And I think for me also, there’s a sense of like there’s an activation when we began to form a relationship, like there were… He was bringing out things in me, I was bringing out things in him that we actually we really needed each others, these impulses. And it was actually… He listened to this course I had created and said, ‘You should make this into a book.’ So that’s why the book is there, because he said, you know, ‘you already have it all written. Why don’t you make it into a book?’ Anyway, so it feels very whole to be on a spiritual path with someone who…. where there’s really deep love, also like human love, and affection, and care, and attraction, and beauty, and romance. To really have the dimension of sharing our aspiration and that he’s very deeply committed to his path as a Christian and really experiences the love of Christ and of God, and often experiences it as motherly God, and I experience Thay as very motherly, very feminine in his expression of the sacred. So it just feels very much like I feel like I’ve been led. Both of us, I think, describe this, that we, our whole lives, we felt led. So I felt led to become a monastic. It’s like something, this flow has been leading us to where we needed to be. So I felt told, I felt led out of the monastic life. He felt called into the priesthood…. It was quite amazing how we found each other. We both taught at Schumacher College and basically in one Zoom call of just, you know, it was just, you know, I didn’t know anything really about him, but I knew after talking to him in one call that he was going to be my partner. So that kind of like push being brought together. And so I think now this feeling of, well, we both have this very deep commitment to awakening our minds and hearts and we’re called to do something together. And so this bringing Christian and Buddhist practice in real like concrete ways. So we do practices together. We practice, we say gratitude before we eat, we reflect on the day before we go to bed. We practice beginning anew, we try to do it every week, where we don’t take things for granted in our lives. And so there’s this wish to really, for us, personally, to live a life where practice comes first. And so we need to be in a practice center to do that. So we want to start a Buddhist-Christian practice center where we can offer training and give folks real experience where people can come and live like they do in other practice centers. And we have a schedule from morning to evening, ways to to engage. And I really think that what this time calls for, with so much change, with so much disruption, with so much at risk, is more and more of us who are holding down the fort, you know, who are really doing the deep spirit work of seeing Interbeing. And you need to slow down to do that. You need to have less. There needs to be space for that kind of consciousness to emerge. And so I really think that’s what I’m called to do, what we are called to do, and to provide space for others to do that, that is not caught by the notion of Buddhism, the notion of Christianity, that can really receive the fruits of those traditions as they manifest, at least in this situation, through me and my partner. And we do a monthly group, we just started a monthly group last month and it’s every last Monday of the month: Buddhist-Christian Community of Contemplation and Action. So it’s a space where we are going to be practicing together these different practices from our various traditions and what it means to manifest that in the world.

01:21:29

Kaira Jewel, I think we need to, we need to… We’re draining you so much, we’re like sucking the life out of you, so I want to respect your time. I’m going to ask you, maybe if you’re willing, because Brother Phap Huu is not here, and he normally gives the guided meditation, offers us a short guided meditation. But apart from appreciating your time, and energy, and deep insight, and the way you have talked about such deep issues with such calmness, and clarity, and insight has been beautiful. So, thank you! And I just want one final thing, so what our readers can’t see is that you are sitting on the Zoom call, you are sitting and behind you, on your left side is a large picture of, black and white picture of Tha. And he’s sort of, he’s sitting down with his hands together and he’s looking towards you. And the whole time you’ve been speaking, it’s like Thay has been smiling at you and imperceptibly, I’m sure, I’ve seen him nod several times. Saying, ‘Kaira Jewel, yes, I agree….’ It’s like he’s looking at you with, it’s like he’s looking at you from… it’s quite extraordinary. It’s hard to explain, but it just it feels he’s been present in this conversation and acknowledging you and your contribution. So that’s lovely. But Kaira Jewel, would you honor us with a short guided meditation a few minutes just to allow us to resettle, come back to the present moment and…. Thank you.

01:23:16

So. So I’m noticing what’s here. Maybe it’s your breath. Maybe it’s the contact between your body and supporting you right now. Maybe it’s the temperature of the air on your skin. Maybe it sounds in your surroundings, or something in your body, something that’s buzzing, or painful, or tense, or at ease, or cold, or warm. Coming back to connect with whatever you’re noticing, whatever you’re aware of and not asking it to be any other way. Seeing if you can offer space and time, or permission for whatever this experience is to be here and to unfold. If you feel resistance to this moment for whatever reason, living space for your resistance to be here. So if there’s any kind of reaction to what you’re experiencing, letting the reaction become what you allow, and give space for listening, and opening to what’s here, whatever it is. Letting yourselves be held by the Earth, by present moment, just as you are.

01:27:54

Dear listeners, if you have enjoyed this podcast, you can find many more on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, and other platforms that carry podcasts, and on our very own Plum Village App. And this podcast has been brought to you by the generosity of donors, donations to the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation. So if you would like to contribute to the foundation and to support this podcast, then please go to the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation website. Thank you and go well.

01:29:04

The way out is in.


Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Hide Transcript

What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

00:00 / 00:00
Show Hide Transcript Close